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New Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon Performs First Spinal Fusion in History of Hospital

Dr. Sunil Kukreja, one of two new orthopedic surgeons in the area, has performed the first spine surgery in the 125-year-history of Brooks Hospital.

The case — a spinal fusion — performed on a local woman, was the first carried out at Brooks, and marks the beginning of what is hoped to be a long career performing spine procedures locally for Kukreja.

“I’m happy that I could help my patient by fixing such a complex fracture in the thoracic spine,” said Kukreja. “We at Brooks hospital have opened new avenues, providing the surgical care for the wide range of spine problems. I intend to offer a variety of procedures, including endoscopic, minimal invasive, and deformity surgeries, to cater the need of the local community,” he said.

According to Kukreja, the patient presented as one who had sustained multiple falls over the past three-to-four months. Diagnostic imaging showed severe fracture and a collapse of the vertebral body in the thoracic spine resulting in significant pain. The spinal fusion used screws in the rods stabilizing the fracture and was complex “because of severe osteoporosis of the bones for which cement was also used to provide the strong fixation for the fracture,” he said.

The procedure took approximately two hours and 30 minutes. Following recovery and healing, the fusion is expected to alleviate the patient’s pain and return her mobility to what it was prior to the fracture.

Kukreja is employed at Lake Erie Medical Services – LEMS, through a University at Buffalo Neurosurgery (UBNS) partnership. He has been an orthopedic surgeon for over 20 years, with experience in all aspects of orthopedic care. Kukreja completed multiple fellowships that include adult spine care from the University at Buffalo, as well as pediatric spine care from Harvard University Pediatric Orthopedic and Spine.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Kukreja as part of the Brooks-TLC team. He is an excellent addition to our medical staff in our effort to increase services to keep care close to home,” said Ken Morris, Brooks-TLC’s president and chief executive officer.  We are thankful to Dr. Kukreja, for bringing his skills to the community, as well as UB Neurosurgery for their partnership in this achievement. Our hospital staff has done an outstanding job supporting Dr. Kukreja and we are fortunate to have such a great team.”

Thursday’s History-making Surgical Team post-op: l to r John Rudyk, Jamie Ullmark, Kim Fitzpatrick, Dr. Sunil Kukreja, Carrie Fearman, Nicole Pike, Lisa Barone, Becca Gard, Duncan Smith, Dale Masi, Rob Luthringer (Globus Rep), and Olivia Burgess. (Not pictured Tara Walrod)

Days prior to the first spine procedure at Brooks, a mock surgery was staged — complete with spine surgery trainer simulator (patient stand-in) and operating room team. The mock surgery served as prep for the team to familiarize them with his preferences for equipment placement, adjustments to height, etc., and to introduce any new instruments he uses.

The Brooks-TLC Hospital System consists of a 65-bed general medical/surgical community hospital, Gowanda Urgent Care and Medical Center, plus two outpatient substance use disorder clinics and an offsite laboratory blood draw location in Fredonia. Brooks Memorial Hospital features women’s health services – including state-of-the-art digital 3D mammography, ultrasound, orthopedic general and specialty surgery, physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, ambulatory imaging, ambulatory surgery, emergency medical department – including fast-track process and quick-turnaround laboratory services, and primary and urgent care.